These days most people are trying to be more environmentally friendly. Every bit helps, and many people have stopped using single-use coffee cups and switched to reusable travel mugs. There are many different options, but bamboo travel mugs seem to be a good option… Right? Are Bamboo travel mugs eco-friendly? Let’s find out.
Even though bamboo travel mugs are made (in part) from bamboo fibers, they are not environmentally friendly. They cannot be recycled, and they are also not biodegradable. Furthermore, studies show that the other materials used to create these bamboo travel mugs are dangerous to your health.
Are you shocked yet? You should just wait until you hear the other materials used to make bamboo travel mugs and exactly how dangerous they are to your health.
Why Bamboo Travel Mugs Are Not Eco Friendly
There are a couple of reasons bamboo travel mugs are not eco-friendly. First, they are certainly a better alternative to single-use cups regarding environmental awareness. However, bamboo travel mugs are marketed as a better option than metal or ceramic travel mugs, which is simply not true.
Bamboo travel mugs are made by grinding the bamboo fibers into a fine powder that is then mixed with melamine and formaldehyde before it is molded into its shape.
Bamboo is a sustainable resource, biodegradable, and can be used to make many products, from clothes to cutlery. But a lot of the bamboo used to make bamboo travel mugs are sourced from bamboo plantations. Setting up these plantations means disrupting or destroying the natural habitat to make room. This practice not only harms the environment and causes loss of habitat, but it is also not sustainable.
In order to make bamboo travel mugs, the bamboo has to undergo many processes, from grinding the bamboo into a powder, to heat treating it to hold its form. These processes use chemicals and practices that are not eco-friendly. For example, melamine, a type of plastic, is not biodegradable.
A mixture of melamine and formaldehyde is added to the bamboo powder and then heat-treated to harden. This process results in a bamboo travel mug that is not biodegradable. Bamboo travel mugs are also not recyclable and will ultimately result in landfills.
Even though bamboo travel mugs are a better alternative to single-use items, they are marketed to make us believe that they are also biodegradable or recyclable. But they are not. They are therefore not as eco-friendly as their marketing would have us believe.
The Safety Concerns With Bamboo Travel Mugs
The addition of melamine and formaldehyde is where the real trouble begins. Melamine is a material that has been used for a long time to make picnic cutlery and crockery. It is an acceptable material to use and is also better than single-use items such as paper plates.
However, melamine is not suitable to be used in high temperatures. Thus, adding it to a travel mug that will be transporting hot liquids is not a smart decision. The temperature at which melamine becomes harmful is 158°F (note that water boils at 212°F). Therefore, melamine is not a safe material to use in the production of bamboo travel mugs.
Formaldehyde presents an even more significant health concern. It is a known carcinogen and can cause a multitude of other health problems, such as kidney disease. Formaldehyde is commonly used in industrial-strength disinfectants. It is also used as part of the preservation process at funeral homes.
Melamine is proven to leach. Leaching is when gasses are released from the material. This leaching worsens at higher temperatures.
Various studies have been done to observe the leaching effect of melamine. For example, a Danish study found that in just two hours at 70°F, melamine had leached from the tableware into the food. In addition, a Taiwanese study found that a test group had melamine in their urine after eating hot ramen noodles from melamine bowls.
So, when you pour your steaming coffee into your bamboo travel mug, the melamine and formaldehyde will leach into your coffee. You will then ingest it.
Many studies have been set up to investigate the dangers of melamine and formaldehyde. For example, there was an incident in China where baby formula had been contaminated with melamine. This incident led to 6 deaths and many hospitalizations.
A recent study tested hundreds of bamboo travel mugs and found that 35% of them released melamine into the coffee at harmful levels. So, the materials added to the bamboo powder to make bamboo travel mugs are not eco-friendly. Furthermore, they are proven to be dangerous to your health.
Given that these are the facts, one might wonder how these bamboo travel mugs manage to stay on the market.
Better Alternatives To Bamboo Travel Mugs
There are countless alternatives to using bamboo travel mugs. For example, you could use a double-walled thermos travel mug that keeps your coffee hot. You could also use a ceramic travel mug that has a silicone top. These options are safer than a bamboo travel mug and no less eco-friendly.
Some companies are producing “safe” bamboo travel mugs in which they mix the bamboo powder with a natural resin. They do not specify what the resin is made of, though.
However, these bamboo travel mugs are still made from bamboo grown on plantations. So while they are much safer (or so they claim to be), they are still not wholly eco-friendly.
The conclusion reached from this blog is that bamboo travel mugs are no more environmentally friendly than any other travel mug. Their growing methods to method of producing the bamboo travel mug are laced with practices that are bad for the environment.
The more significant concern is that bamboo travel mugs are also dangerous to your health, and studies have proven this to be true.
Luckily, companies are continuously improving their ideas and innovating. So, hopefully, there will be a genuinely eco-friendly and safe travel mug option in the future.